CENTENNIAL, Colo. -- Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe played through foot, ankle and finger issues through 11 weeks. But when his right arm kept going numb because of a neck issue, Wolfe finally relented to the pain, landing on injured reserve.
Wednesday, he expanded on the injury on 104.3 The Fan, admitting he has spinal stenosis in the C7 segment of his neck. Per spine-health.com, this signals a nerve root has become compressed, causing pain on the arm. Wolfe continues to rest as he anticipates a full recovery, saying he is driven to play at least 10 years in the NFL.
"We get (the neck) fixed up, and I won't have to deal with it ever again," Wolfe said. "I did a lot of neck strengthening (after a neck injury in 2013). And sometimes that closes the holes where the nerves come out. I have to make sure to keep those clear and keep pressure off the neck. Right now I am taking time to heal. ... Even though my neck was hurt, I wanted to keep pushing for my teammates. I couldn't take it anymore. The reason I am taking the time to fix it is that I think it will extend my career. After 10 years I am looking to stop, and no more than 12 because I want to live my life."
Wolfe, who finished with 31 tackles and two sacks, traced the neck issue to last season when he dislocated his right elbow. He only missed a week, but when he returned he lacked strength in his arm. It led him to engage offensive linemen more with his head to create leverage. The constant banging on the right side, he explained, caused weakness in his neck and numbness in his right arm. He lost feeling multiple times in his right arm this season, including during his final game at Oakland.
"I fully expect -- I can't even say expect -- I know that I am going to come back even stronger and better from this," Wolfe said. "All this time off is going to be so good for me. It's going to make me really, really miss the game. Watching now, I want to be out there."
In a forgettable season, the defensive line has provided hope. The group has improved dramatically with the additions of Domata Peko, Shelby Harris and Zach Kerr.